Feeds

SHOCK! US House swats trolls, passes patent 'extortion' bill

Innovation Act looks set to rush through Senate

The US House of Representatives has momentarily put aside its internecine warfare and actually passed a bill aimed at stopping the worst excesses of the patent trolling business, and most of the technology industry is rejoicing at the news.

"Today Congress worked in bipartisan fashion to do the right thing and secure America's economic future," said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association.

"Patent trolling is garden-variety extortion by another name, and we are one step closer to shutting it down," he said. "I applaud today's vote to end frivolous patent litigation that is suppressing innovation, stifling economic growth and costing Americans tens of billions of dollars."

The Innovation Act, HR 3309, would ban patent trolls from suing end-users, rather than the manufacturer of a technology, for patent infringement, and would also require a much higher burden of proof in judgments.

In addition, patent holders would have to identify themselves directly in a case, rather than working through shell companies, and if a lawsuit fails they would have to pay the defendant's costs. Defendants would also have to incur fewer costs up front during the discovery phase of any trial.

"HR 3309 addresses this urgent problem by striking a balance that deters bad actors while protecting intellectual property rights," blogged Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel at Microsoft.

"At its core," Gutierrez said, "the bill reduces the financial incentives for rogue players to pursue abusive patent litigation through calibrated measures that provide for fee shifting, curbing discovery abuse, requiring precision in claims of infringement, and promoting transparency in patent ownership."

Julie Samuels, senior staff attorney and holder of The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents [Seriously?—Ed. Seriously.—Iain] at the EFF, said the fast, bi-partisan nature of the vote was highly encouraging. It now looks likely that the Senate should pass similar legislation by the end of the year, she said.

"The Innovation Act isn't perfect," Samuels said. "It doesn't go nearly far enough to reform the demand letter problem. Its provisions protecting consumers and end-users, while present, aren't as robust as we would hope. But the Innovation Act is nonetheless a huge step in the right direction."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has already said he'll be pushing hard for the Innovation Act to get through the Senate as fast as possible, and President Obama has already indicated he'd sign off on the legislation. But Russ Merbeth, chief policy counsel for IP licensing firm Intellectual Ventures, counselled caution.

"We're not opposed to all, or even most measures in H.R. 3309," he told El Reg in a statement, "but even the best of them need a great deal more refinement and we are disappointed the House rushed to pass this bill. We hope the Senate recognizes the need for a deliberate and measured approach." ®

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.